World War II Reenactors Set to Return to Military Museum for Memorial Day Weekend
Caitlin Tressler was just six-years-old when she joined her father in her first war reenactment.
Now, at 27, Tressler is a veteran reenactor who has participated in nearly all 15 World War II events held Memorial Day weekend at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg.
"I really liked cannons, and that's really 6-year-old logic, and it sort of became a family affair," Tressler says. "It was something I really enjoyed doing and I did it to spend time with my dad."
The unique bonding experience with her father, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, started after he made a documentary about Civil War reenactments. Then, a friend told them about the Boalsburg event, which would end up being their first World War II reenactment.
She's returned every year since.
"I really like it. It's a nice small event and the town seems to really enjoy us being there. We always have a really good time," Tressler says.
Tressler plays a French resistance fighter in a setting just after the Normandy Invasion. She wears clothing historically accurate for a rural, French 20-something female civilian that took up arms against the Germans – skirt, sweater vest, beret, while carrying a G98 German rifle.
Tressler says she enjoys the Boalsburg event because it includes a tactical scenario as well as a living history element that allows reenactors to interact with the public.
"It gives us an opportunity to engage the audience in both ways," Tressler says. "They really appreciate us being there."
The Boalsburg event has an elevated meaning for Tressler, who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Delaware, as it's the same place she met her husband. She and her husband, Justin, have been married for nearly four years. Both scientists, the reenactments have become their hobby in their free time.
Joe Horvath, museum educator, says the event draws between 150 and 300 people.
"Now, in 21st Century, people are no longer satisfied with reading this stuff. They have to be entertained and this is a 3D opportunity to see history come alive," says Horvath.
Horvath says those who attend the event often get hooked. Some folks who visited in middle school are now reenactors, he says.
"It encourages people to get very curious about history," he says. "Sometimes it's a child's first brush with history."
Between 20 and 30 reenactors participate each year from ages 16 to 60-something. Quite a few are women, who play the roll of the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Army nurses and other support personnel.
World War II reenactors will be on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum Saturday and Sunday. A small squad tactical demonstration against German opposition is slated for 1 p.m. each day. Bivouac and tactical will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the all-weather event.